How these mind altering substances will play a leading role in building a better world
The future ain’t what it used to be. — Yogi Berra
The psychedelic ayahuasca has played a tremendous role in my life. As a successful startup founder and someone most would view as quite “buttoned up,”, I had initial hesitation to writing about the unconventional role plant medicine has played in my journey. That was a year ago.
Today, I am moved by how profound an impact ayahuasca has had in my life. I am convinced of ayahuasca’s ability to positively impact humanity. The public conversation is gaining a lot of momentum towards the positive role psychedelics can play in our society as well.
When a friend gifted me a signed copy of Michael Pollan’s book, How to Change Your Mind, I couldn’t help but smile. At that moment, I knew that the conversation on psychedelics had truly gone mainstream.
In the days following, Pollan would appear on many of my favorite podcasts as well as all across network and cable TV. He was even featured in conservative leaning newspapers. He was everywhere!
The thing is, Pollan is not some hippie or new age healer espousing the benefits of psychedelics with his head in the clouds. Pollan isn’t a psychonaut, a term to describe those actively exploring their own mind and consciousness. His work is not even spiritually leaning.
Pollan is a 60-year-old journalist renowned for his balanced, meticulously researched, scientifically grounded, internationally bestselling publications that have relentlessly caused ripples in how the mainstream relates to the world. Probably his most famous work prior is “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” Until writing “How to Change Your Mind,” he had led a pretty straight-laced life. Pollan wrote this breakthrough piece in response to the overwhelming amount of research that is being conducted on psychedelics.
The findings of the research coming out is stunningly positive. And it’s positive in world changing ways. Research being conducted on psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms), LSD, ayahuasca and other psychoactive drugs is already showing major breakthroughs for treating depression, PTSD, anxiety, addiction and other mental conditions. Numerous first-hand experiences of plant medicine curing cancer, treating multiple sclerosis (MS), Lyme disease and other chronic conditions permeate the ayahuasca and psychedelic communities. This level of healing potential is common knowledge among those who make plant medicine ceremonies a part of their lifestyle. I’ve heard enough to know that there will be some interesting research to back up the anecdotes as well.
Much like cannabis, the medical efficacy of psychedelic substances will make some type of legalization nearly impossible to deny. Depression affects more than 300 million people globally. Addiction is a similar international epidemic. 260 million more suffer from anxiety across the world. An estimated 5% of Americans suffer from PTSD while many more remain undiagnosed. Countless others suffer from any combination of the above, as they are all interrelated. These conditions are growing like epidemics and every family is negatively affected by them in one way or another. These conditions undermine the very social fabric that connects us all.
Western medicine has failed to have any major breakthroughs in treating any of these debilitating conditions for decades. Popularly prescribed psychotropic anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs actually work the opposite way that plant medicine does! They merely numb the patients’ hearts and minds. They serve as little more than a means of suppressing the ailments to further ignore them rather than creating actual healing.
In treatment of these conditions, the research behind psychedelics is beginning to speak for itself. A tremendous amount of new research will pile on in the coming decade. And, while healing a huge percentage of the population from mental and physical disease would be one of the biggest contributions imaginable to our society, there may be even greater implications!
When I speak with friends about these medicines, the most common reason they don’t want to try them is, “I don’t think I need it.” For me, and many others, we don’t use these medicines to heal a particular condition or even trauma, though there is always more healing that can be done. What compels me is the medicine’s ability to enable deeper connection to others and the world as well as greater personal alignment and clarity of purpose. It allows us to learn more about ourselves, others and the world. And ultimately this results in more creativity, joy and fulfillment.
What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we cannot cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? — Thomas Merton
These tools, much like meditation, yoga, breathwork and other powerful modalities, allow us to gain awareness of our true self: a universally connected self. This connection is the reason why these medicines are so healing mentally and physically. It’s separation and the resulting fear and loneliness that lead to dis-ease.
This connection will also shift our world in virtually every way.
Right now, our news is governed by fear, our businesses operate through competition, and we largely believe the world to be scarce. Psychedelics have the potential to accelerate the disintegration of these great myths. The effect would be a complete rebuilding of our society into what can only be described as utopia.
The ultimate state may be hard to envision but the benefits from psychedelic medicines that would lead us there are not. Those who have experience with psychedelics and natural plant medicines in particular have likely experienced many or all of the following.
Once you start to see these changes in yourself and your beliefs, it’s not hard to imagine a day when all of the following will be true:
1. You Fear Less: Psychedelics are successful in treating conditions like depression and anxiety because they often put you directly up against some of the things you fear most. Once you face your fear and you realize you are still standing, the fear has a way of quickly subsiding.
2. You Love More: The opposite of fear is love. When we remove our fears, within us grows a far greater space for love. When our thoughts are not consumed with what people think of us, who is out to get us, and who will leave us, we find miraculously that there is more love in the world than we ever thought possible. And then, we start to attract more love everywhere in our lives.
3. You Trust More: When we approach life with love over fear, trust comes naturally. When we understand that humanity is ultimately good, we can approach life with trust. This trust enables new collaborations, deeper relationships and true community. We begin to view each other and our businesses/religions/cultural groups, not as sources of stressful competition, but as partners, brothers and sisters.
4. You Experience How We Are One: I have sat in a couple dozen ayahuasca ceremonies and with few exceptions, everyone comes away with a belief that we are all connected, all one. This message is not just seen or heard but experienced at every level of our being. Once we accept this to be true, nearly every decision we make in our lives can be examined and updated to reflect this universal truth.
Everyone will begin to experience these truths at some point when using these medicines consciously and with respect.
And once you know it for yourself, you can’t unknow it. When you begin to surround yourself with others who know it, magic starts to happen. I experience this magic daily now through synchronicity, connection and love that surrounds.
I started 1heart with my business partner and best friend Barry in order to pave new paths for building more conscious and collaborative businesses. We also started 1heart Journeys in order to take leaders on transformational Journeys, many of which include psychedelic plant medicines like ayahuasca in countries like Costa Rica where they are legal.
We believe that elevating the consciousness of powerful leaders will create a chain reaction of awakening to include anyone and everyone who looks to these leaders for guidance and inspiration. Transform the minds and hearts of leaders first. Those of the rest will exponentially follow.
Instead of all the energy and effort directed at the war to end drugs, how about a little attention to drugs which would end war? — Albert Hofmann
It is human nature to reject what we fear when we don’t feel safe enough to explore it, and truly understand it. Thus, psychedelics have a history of government suppression simply because during times where the world felt less safe, governing bodies needed assurance that it could maintain social order.
However, much of the world’s people are more abundant, thriving, and safe now. We are at a turning point where we can reach out to the hidden resources we cordoned off in the past while we were trying to survive.
The responsible use and study of these medicines is already shedding considerable light on why they just may be a cure to much of what currently ails us as humans and a society.
So many lives have been positively affected by ayahuasca and other psychedelic plant medicines. There are many heroes helping to ensure that this work continues. There are those like Pollan who are willing to openly share their experiences through mainstream channels. Organizations like MAPS are helping to fund valuable research. The research that is being conducted is already revealing miraculous results. The internet provides open access to all of this. There are many doctors, shamans and healers willing to do the work they so deeply believe in, despite the precarious legal status of psychedelics in some countries.
The truth is, psychedelics for intentional, heart-centered healing purposes are nothing new. The western mainstream’s openness to exploring them as such is the only thing that’s shifting. The indigenous people of the Americas have been practicing psychedelic plant medicine healing ceremonies for eons.
With momentum continuing to snowball, our time to explore, heal and expand our collective consciousness has finally arrived. Best of all, we don’t have to relegate our interest to subculture when the mainstream is being addressed with the kind of scientific support it needs to get even the most skeptical minds on board.
The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge — Stephen Hawking
We will surely look back on this moment spearheaded by Pollan’s catalytic page-turner as a pivotal point of global awakening along this ultimate frontier.
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